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March 30, 2013

Today we traveled Southwest of town about 30 minutes to Deer Creek Canyon in Jefferson County Open Space. Here, rich mining lands meet the mesa which produced corn, wheat, and hay, making the area a popular stomping ground in the late 1800’s. Most of the land that makes up Deer Creek Canyon Park was homesteaded by the Williamson’s and Sam Couch, both English emigrants, in 1872 and 1874, respectively. Many Indian tribes, including the Utes, Arapaho, and Cheyenne visited their ranches.

In addition, many silver and gold mining prospectors seeked their fortune here as well. Wiley Phillips founded a town called Phillipsburg to accommodate new arrivals. The 500 residents soon moved to more prosperous areas. The town has remained empty since its last resident, who owned the General Store, died in 1974. Phillipsburg’s most famous resident was Alfred Packer. While lost and stuck in the San Juan mountains in the winter of 1874, he turned to cannibalism and ate his prospecting companions. He was tried for murder and spent 30 years in jail. He was described as a kind man and died just two years after his release.

For our hike, we followed portions of three trails to summit Bill Couch Mountain and hiked around 6.5 miles roundtrip. We first followed the Plymouth Creek Trail along hard clay through cacti. The hard clay quickly turned to mud and as it ascended into the foothills, we met the leftover snow and ice from last week’s storms. Though shaded as the trail followed the creek beneath the evergreens, we expected the snow to be melted, thus we were a bit surprised. Luckily, I had my microspikes which were very useful. I think my fellow companions would have liked to have there microspikes with them!

After following the Plymouth Creek Trail for 2.4 miles, we took a right onto Mesa Trail for a tenth of a mile and then descended Golden Eagle Trail, limited to hikers only, for half a mile to the summit. Nothing like descending to a summit! Upon summitting, John celebrating by riding the bull! OK, it was a non-moving rock, so he stayed on 8 seconds. After enjoying a 360 view which included Denver, the mesa, and surrounding mountains, we turned back toward the parking lot. We backtracked UP Golden Eagle Trail and across Mesa Trail and down a portion of the Plymouth Creek Trail to Meadowlark Trail, also for hikers only, to change up our return just a bit.

With the exception of a mile on Plymouth Creek Trail, the rest of the trails were exposed to the sun and free of snow. We enjoyed the 60 temperatures and the sun poking through the storm clouds rolling in and generally hiked in shorts and a T-shirt!! Only the cool breeze near the summit called for light jacket. The climb ascended 800 to 1,000 feet over three miles and the summit topped out at 6,800 feet, so it was an easy hike that we finished in less than three hours. I imagine we would have hiked at a faster clip if we weren’t trying to balance on ice at times…really glad I had my spikes! Overall, it was a lovely day, nice hike, fun with friends and exciting to see spring in sight. ETB

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